The federal government will use new power to hand-pick immigrants to address Canada’s skill shortages, increase the sponsorship of parents and grandparents, and begin issuing temporary visas for spouses while their permanent-residence applications are being processed.
Those are some of the highlights of Canada’s latest immigration plan — announced Tuesday — which will see this country look to bring in 465,000 new permanent residents next year, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.
“Canada has experienced one of the strongest economic recoveries from the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve recovered significantly more jobs than were lost during the pandemic. Our GDP levels are well in excess of pre-pandemic levels. A couple of months ago, we hit the lowest rate of unemployment in the history of Canada,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told a news conference in Toronto.
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“You don’t need to dig into the stats to understand that there was a million jobs available in the Canadian economy. You need to walk down Main Street of any community in Canada. You’re going to see ‘help wanted’ signs in the window. This is the economic context that we’re living through right now.”
“Every job that is not filled represents one less person contributing to Canada’s economic growth and one less person paying taxes to support Canada’s social infrastructure,” said BCC president and CEO Goldy Hyder in a media statement.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it will fall short of the BCC’s request as it sets its target for economic immigrants at 60 per cent of the annual total by 2025.
Canada welcomed more than 405,000 newcomers in 2021, despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, and is on track to receive 431,000 permanent residents this year.
According to the new multi-year plan, a revamped skilled-immigration system will help target candidates with the required skills and qualifications in sectors facing acute labour shortages — such as health care, manufacturing, building trades and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
With a new authority endowed in the 2022 federal budget bill, Fraser can bypass the current points-based selection system to pick immigrant candidates with the skills in demand here. The so-called “targeted draws” will start early next year.
Federal immigration officials will also further expand on regional programs to address local labour market needs.
The annual permanent-resident quotas allotted to the Provincial Nominee Program (excluding Quebec, which sets its own annual targets) and the Atlantic Immigration program will go from 114,000 in 2023 to 132,000 in 2025. The provincial programs let provinces and employers nominate immigrant candidates who meet their needs.
Overall, the number of newcomers admitted under the skilled immigration programs will increase from 266,210 to 301,250 over the next three years, while the number of those selected for family reunification will rise from 106,500 to 118,000. But the annual number of refugees and newcomers admitted on humanitarian grounds will drop from 76,305 to 72,750 over the same period.
RBC economist Carrie Freestone said the new plan is comprehensive, targeting industries with high job vacancies while striving for a regional balance in terms of addressing labour-market needs and population declines outside of major urban centres due to aging and urbanization.
Although Canada is expected to follow other countries into a recession next year, Freestone said there’s still going to be significant demand for labour in many industries, with the country’s unemployment rate (currently 5.2 per cent) predicted to rise by 1.7 percentage points throughout the slowdown.
“It might sound like a lot, but unemployment right now is well below where it should be. We have a labour market mismatch here where there’s more vacancies, essentially, than unemployed people who can fill them. There’s just not enough unemployed people to fill the jobs that are available,” Freestone explained.
Home prices are expected to fall at least roughly 14 per cent from their peak, but she said economists believe the market will bottom out next spring, with the inflow of newcomers looking for housing.
“For homeowners, immigration is a positive because it helps preserve the value of their homes … It’s a positive for population growth. People are coming into Canada and they’re spending money and paying taxes,” said Freestone. “At the end of the day, it’s really difficult to think of a negative.”
The new immigration levels plan came in the wake of the most recent poll by the Environics Institute and Century Initiative last week that found Canadians’ support for immigration appears to be at an all-time high.
Sixty-nine per cent of the 2,000 respondents expressed support for the current immigration levels — the highest support recorded on the Environics surveys in 45 years, up four per cent from 2021.
This view, according to the pollster, is being driven in large part by public recognition that immigration is important to the country’s economy and demographic needs to support an aging population amid low birth rates.
“Canada’s labour market relies on immigration. This is true in almost all sectors and in almost all regions of the country. Getting the economy right means getting immigration right,” said Lisa Lalande, CEO of Century Initiative, a national bipartisan group that advocates for a Canada of 100 million people by 2100 through responsible population growth.
“This public support is not guaranteed. We must maintain strong public support for immigration given how critical it is to our long-term prosperity. It must remain a non-partisan issue.”
She said immigration alone will not advance Canada’s long-term economic goals and that the country must continue to invest in affordable housing, physical and social infrastructure, as well as broadband access, all crucial to Canada’s ability to “grow well” into the future.
A recent survey by the Business Council of Canada found 80 per cent of respondents reported having difficulty finding the skilled workers they need to grow and compete globally. As a result, 67 per cent had cancelled or delayed major projects, as some 30 per cent were forced to relocate work outside of Canada.
“Every job that is not filled represents one less person contributing to Canada’s economic growth and one less person paying taxes to support Canada’s social infrastructure,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the council, which would like to see 65 per cent of the overall immigration admission allocated for skilled immigrants, up from the 58.5 per cent in the three-year plan.
This year, the number of new permanent residents is to include 241,850 from the economic class, 105,000 through family reunification and 76,545 as refugees and protected persons. The annual quotas for parents/grandparents sponsorship will go up under the plan from the current 25,000 to 28,500 next year, 34,000 in 2023 and 36,000 in 2025.
The immigration system had been ground to a halt during the peak of the pandemic with staff working remotely from home with limited access to immigration files and operating in restricted capacity, and resources siphoned to handle the resettlement of displaced Afghans and Ukrainians.
Officials have continued to struggle with the immigration backlogs despite hiring 1,250 additional processing staff and upgrading computer systems to allow applications for more programs to be filed online.
As of Sept. 30, the number of temporary and permanent residence applications in its inventory soared to 2.6 million from 1.8 million at the end of last year, almost 60 per cent of them have been in the queue beyond the processing timelines set by the government.
“We’re currently doing a much smaller number than these targets. And the system is crumbling under the weight of these numbers. This is throughout the processing network with increased processing times and a collapse of a lot of the IT infrastructure,” said Kyle Hyndman, immediate past president of the Canadian Bar Association immigration law division.
“I think it’s an ambitious target, given the immigration department’s ability to physically process them all.”
Source: The Star